If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn't secured 60 votes by midnight Saturday, he won't be able to meet the ambitious deadline of passing a health care bill on Christmas Eve.
The reason is that in order to trigger the chain of events leading to a Christmas Eve vote, Reid would have to file cloture on his "manager's amendment" -- containing all of his final negotiated changes to the bill -- by the end of tomorrow.
Once Reid files that amendment, it will set up the key cloture vote on Monday at 1 a.m., requiring the support of 60 Senators to pass. While that would technically give him all of Sunday to win over Sen. Ben Nelson or any remaining holdouts, Reid would not be able to make any further changes to the bill in order to accommodate any Senator.
While a lot of people are focusing on Christmas Eve, the key vote will be that first cloture vote on Monday. If he gets 60 votes on that, the rest of the process will be a mere technicality.
So, while it sounds dramatic, the future of the nation's health care system may be decided in the next 34 hours.
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